Monday, December 28, 2009

Like a Yeti

Finally, a break from the constant, severe, unrelenting pain. The visiting physical therapist told me that the pain usually lets up three weeks after surgery and he was right. I'm getting along fine on a few Tylenol a day and have actually enjoyed several pain-free moments.

Just as we were about to leave for our daughter's house on Christmas Day, my hearing aid "stopped listening," as my son-in-law said. The on/off switch had been acting funny for a few weeks, and finally it just quit. So I was pretty out of it during the festivities, except when my live-in hearing aid (Phil) was in the room.

This morning I got an appointment for Wednesday morning with my audiologist. He'll give me a "loaner" until my new aid arrives. I am so happy to be able to even get an appointment between Christmas and New Year's, but here's the thing:

I was already 2 weeks overdue for a haircut when I crashed to the floor on December 1st. Regular haircuts are a must with hair as short and fine as mine. I look like a yeti! I will scare old men, young women, small children and little dogs in oversize handbags as I clank along with my walker on my way from the street into the audiologist's building.  But, as the Japanese would say, "Shikata ga nai." ("It can't be helped.)

My haircutter is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so I can't even call for an appointment until Wednesday.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fun with Closed Captioning

This morning I watched as the Senate passed the health care reform bill 60 to 39.  After the bill passed, there was a lot of milling around on the Senate floor, some handshaking and back-slapping. The commentator said that after weeks of acrimonious debate, shouting and name-calling, this display of good will and friendliness perhaps showed a willingness to "restore what is called the 'comity of the Senate.'"

Good ol' Closed Captioning! Sometimes it doesn't get it quite right. Closed Captioning made this "restore what is called the comedy of the Senate."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowy Day

Today deep snow is blanketing the Baltimore-Washington suburbs. There's even a possibility of canceling church tomorrow--not that I'd be going--but tomorrow is "Greening Sunday," the Sunday before Christmas when the congregation always decorates the church with fresh evergreens.

It's 16 days after the surgery to repair my fractured right femur. Some days the pain is nearly overwhelming. Unfortunately, I'm near the end of the road with Oxycodone; I seem to have developed a tolerance for it. The good news is that the staples came out two days ago. I get around pretty well with a walker. They tell me I won't need the walker after New Year's. I find that hard to believe.

The visiting nurse will come once more next week to discharge me from home nursing care.  I'll have about two more visits per week from the physical therapist and will then continue therapy on an outpatient  basis. I can't imagine when I'll be able to drive again, since the fractured leg is the gas pedal/brake  leg. We'll see.

Last night, Criminal Cat (the one who knocked down last year's Christmas tree) jumped on my lap and tried to settle herself on my poor leg. When I screeched, she dug her claws into my thigh before jumping off. I bled a lot because of the blood thinner I'm taking to prevent post-surgery blood clots.  Phil washed the wounds, slathered on antiseptic ointment, and applied a dressing. I'll probably live.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Naughty Georgina

Georgie tipped over our tree last Christmas.

She didn't seem sorry at all.

In fact, here she is, returning to the scene of the crime to gloat.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Today is two weeks post surgery. The visiting nurse will remove the staples this afternoon. I am told it's simple and painless, but I've had my doubts after seeing what a staple remover does to a piece of paper.

I had surgery to insert a hip-to-knee titanium-alloy rod to stabilize my fractured right femur on December 3rd. I was due to be transferred to the hospital's rehabilitation department on Sunday, December 6th, but no bed was available. On Monday, the physical therapist asked me if I would be willing to continue therapy at home. YES!

We didn't get home until around 8 PM. I was ready to fall into bed. Brushing my teeth for the first time in a week with my beloved electric toothbrush, I was surprised that the toothpaste tasted so awful. "Oh, well, " I thought, "maybe the Oxycodone I'm on is making it taste funny." The next morning I saw that I had brushed my teeth with hydrocortisone cream. YUK!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


During my week at the hospital, I spent a lot of time contemplating my wrist band. Name, admission date, admitting doctor's name, birth date. Over in the corner: "WAH."  What was this? An indication of my emotional state at the time of admission? On Day Six, the light dawned. WAH = Washington Adventist Hospital.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Freaky Femur Fractures

As you might have read in "Bone of my Bones," my November 19th post, my sister tripped over a wheelchair (she had just recovered from foot surgery) and fractured her left femur. After surgery, an x-ray showed a hairline fracture in her right femur. She is scheduled for more surgery tomorrow.

Not to be outdone, I fractured my right femur a week ago today. Tuesday is the day I spend with our 20-month-old grandson so that his mother (our daughter) can work at home. I'm glad I had already carried Nathaniel upstairs for his nap. Back downstairs, I heard the College Park leaf-vaccuuming machine approaching the great stack of curbside leaves out front.  Looking out the window for a glimpse of this leaf-munching monster, I stumbled over Sophie, a huge sweet mutt who had parked herself in the traffic lane.  Down I went!

The next week was a blur. Ambulance ride to the emergency room at Washington Adventist Hospital (WAH), x-rays, admission to the hospital, surgery Thursday night, physical and occupational therapy. Happily, I got to come home last night. A visiting  nurse and physical therapist will come see me today. Phil has been wonderful, changing the bed, doing laundry, picking up prescriptions, injecting my blood thinner, helping me shower. He was on duty since 4 PM yesterday until 11 AM this morning, when he went to work.

I'm still in pain, but it's manageable. I feel pretty good 20 minutes after taking my Oxycontin. Although the calls and e-mails from friends and the care I received from the WAH staff probably had something to do it, I wonder if my happy mood during the past week was due to the combined effects of my  antidepressant plus Oxycodone. I think I will call Rush Limbaugh during his show today and ask for advice on doctor shopping. JUST kidding.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Turkey Eater's Dilemma

This week we will head for our cabin in Ohio to celebrate Thanksgiving with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. I've ordered a fresh turkey from "Dale's Cardinal Supermarket" in Danville, OH. I had a choice between "regular" and "free range." Although it cost more, I chose "free range."

Then I got to thinking.

If, according to the animal rights folks, a free-range turkey lives a happier life than a caged turkey, why end its happy little life? Wouldn't it be better to have chosen a cage-reared turkey and ended its suffering? Just thought I'd ask.

I am not ready to become a vegetarian just yet.

Once, when someone asked me when I was going to become a vegetarian, I replied, "I'm waiting for my dog to become one first."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bone of My Bones and Flesh of My Flesh

On Saturday, I received a "bad news" e-mail from my brother-in-law. My sister, Barbara (not one of my three half-sisters), tripped and broke her femur (upper thigh bone), She was in the hospital, scheduled for surgery on Sunday morning. Barbara's was a "low energy" fracture, caused by slight trauma such as a bump or a fall, rather than a major trauma, such as a car accident. Still, it was more than a hairline fracture. The bone fragments were misaligned, so she was in surgery longer than anticipated. The surgeon said the bone was "dense, but brittle."

As soon as I received Ron's e-mail, I remembered news releases about fractured femurs in women who had been on Fosamax ("Fossil-max," as Phil calls it) for many years. I've been on Fosamax or its generic form for over 12 years.

Although anyone in the world could tell at a glance that Barbara and I are sisters, we are not clones of each other. Barbara, who is two years younger than I,  was diagnosed with osteopenia (thinning bones) about five years ago and started taking Fosamax then. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis when I went off hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on a whim about 12 years ago because of annoying side effects. A bone scan showed advanced osteoporosis at age 57, despite my having been on HRT for seven years! My case was considered so serious that I was urged to resume HRT, so for about 3 or 4 years, I was on both Fosamax and Premarin. Then, in 2002, the bad news came out about HRT and I quit hormone therapy abruptly, but continued taking Fosamax. Two or three bone density scans have shown only a marginal improvement. However, there has been no further bone loss in hip or spine, which is cause for celebration.

A class-action suit has been brought against Merck, the manufacturer of Fosamax, by women suffering sudden "low energy" fractures like my sister's.  Barbara is considering joining the suit, not for the money, but to bolster the statistics. She said that the patient-information literature mentions pain as a possible side effect,  but does not tell the patient to contact her doctor immediately. Barbara had experienced severe pain in her left thigh for months. When I saw her at our niece's wedding in August, she was limping badly. The doctor could find no reason for her pain.

Yesterday I found this statement on the Internet, from a July 25, 2008  article in the New York Times: "Notably, studies suggest there is little extra benefit in taking the bone drugs more than five years."

ARGGGH. What to do? The slightest ache or pain in my legs is now making me paranoid. Broken hip or broken leg? Broken spine or broken leg?  Speak, Crystal Ball.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mischief by Foxen

Last week my husband looked out the kitchen window and saw an odd-looking cat under the hemlock. The "cat" turned out to be a very small fox, which trotted to the persimmon tree by the street and helped itself to some fallen fruit. Spooked by a passing car, it retreated to the hemlock.

On a walk this week,  I spotted a "dog" crossing the street up ahead. Someone's dog had probably gotten loose, I thought.  Then I noticed that this dog had a very pointed nose and a very bushy tail. Another fox!

My husband has fumed for years about pesky squirrels that empty the bird feeders. Now he's noticed that we have far fewer squirrels this fall. Perhaps the foxen and their little ones have been feasting on squirrels.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Yesterday, while folding laundry in front of the TV, I chanced upon The 700 Club.  The host,  Pat Robertson, was whining that the new Hate Crimes Bill was just another example of the "persecution" of "believing Christians." Why? Because he's afraid that pastors whose sermons condemn what he calls the "lifestyles" of gays and transgendered folks could go to jail. Oh, get real, Pat! Believe me, you and your  "believing Christians" are not the victims here.  Do you want to know what a real victim looks like? A real victim gets tied  to a fence and beaten to death because someone can't tolerate his "lifestyle."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Death of a Tenant

We received "Norma's" obituary last month from our neighbor in Ohio. "Norma" was never actually our tenant. Our niece inherited the part of the farm where the old house stood.  Then again, maybe "Norma" wasn't really a tenant at all. Don't tenants usually pay rent?  "Norma" and "Ralph" were living in a decrepit old house down the road when Dad died in 1983.  After the funeral, they asked if they could move into the old farmhouse. "Until we get back on our feet" was the way "Ralph" put it.

Somehow they never managed to get back on their feet.  Maybe the loss of Ralph's foot to diabetes had something to do with it. Anyway, Ralph lived there--rent-free--for the rest of his life, probably ten or twelve years.  Norma continued to live there alone until 1999. The insurance company refused to renew the insurance, so our niece let the local fire company burn the house down as a training exercise in 2001.

Norma and Ralph  knew how to live off the land, even though it wasn't their land. Ralph gathered all the wild ginseng he could find and sold it to dealers. He also trapped a wild turkey and broke its wing, proudly explaining to my sister-in-law that he was using it as a decoy to lure other turkeys. My sister-in-law was furious. After she threatened to report him to the game warden, the turkey quietly disappeared. Ralph and Norma disingenuously asked my husband if he had made off with their turkey.  Before its disappearance, it guarded the place ferociously. When my husband once rolled down his car window to talk to Ralph, the turkey rushed up and pecked him on the arm.

Which brings me to Joey, who was first their dog and then ours. Joey actually lived with their son, Eddie, who had a mobile home across the pond. Eddie kept Joey tied up outside and threw dogfood on the ground when he thought of it. Eddie had a girlfriend in town, so he wasn't home much. One day he told Dad that he could no longer keep Joey and had taken him to the pound. Dad sprung him in the nick of time and he became our dog. When my husband went out to Ohio to plant trees, he'd take Joey along. On one of these visits, he stopped the car to talk to Ralph.  "There's my old pal!" Ralph boomed, reaching into the car to pet him. "Grrrrrrrr," said Joey, backing away.

During the eighties and nineties, no one in our family allowed deer hunting on the farm. We found out later, however, that Norma issued hunting "permits" behind our backs, collecting fees from all comers. My husband never knew about this until the game warden called him in Maryland to ask him if he wanted to press charges against a group of about 2 dozen hunters he caught trespassing on our land.  Norma was playing a risky game. One guy--a local legend-- refused to pay her fee.  When Norma told him he couldn't hunt, he cooly raised the barrel of the gun and pointed it straight at her.

Even after she moved into an assisted living facility, Norma continued to share ownership of the land with us in her own peculiar way. Our sister-in-law recently asked a group of strangers what they were doing on her land. They said, "Oh, Norma told us that we could hunt for mushrooms here."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Note in a Bottle

We just got home from a weekend at our place in Ohio.  On a walk along the banks of the Mohican River, we found a plastic water bottle with a note scrolled inside. The note-writer's misspelled words are italicized.

Dear Peopel and Things

Im camping.
Im 10 and tomorro is my birthday.
Yes, I can't what.
I love trees and animals.
Hope your having a good cano trip or day wichever.
Bye bye.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Last Weekend

The weekend started on Saturday morning with a bang when I toppled backwards off my stepper. I twisted my left ankle while doing an exercise that was supposed to improve my sense of balance. Lucky I didn't break my neck. I couldn't put weight on my foot for the next two days.

I was able to hobble into Einstein's Bagels, where we had breakfast. I ordered 4 dozen bagels for our church's Help-the-Homeless Miniwalk on Sunday morning. After breakfast, I went to a crafts workshop at church to make items for the Holiday Bazaar in November. There were several projects to choose from---decorating miniature Christmas trees, creating stuffed animals, crafting embroidered handbags, or beading.

I decided to try beading. Everyone in our group, except for the leader, was a rank beginner. I was an "all-thumbs" rank beginner. Arleen showed us how to make a simple pair of earrings. Some of the others were already on their second pair while I was still trying to figure out which way to bend the wire on my first. Arleen was very patient. I spent the next three hours making a necklace in various shades of blue and turquoise. I really enjoyed stringing the beads in a pattern that emerged as I went along. It kept me off my feet.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Back to Ohio

We're going to our cabin in Ohio over Columbus Day weekend. We'll get off I-77 at Route 39 and head west through Sugar Creek, Walnut Creek, Berlin, Millersburg, and Nashville. On the two-lane highway between Walnut Creek and Millersburg, we'll see lots of Amish buggies. Berlin, in fact, has become a center of Amish tourism; the population of Amish in Holmes and surrounding counties is among the largest in the country, and is said to rival that of Pennsylvania.

One soon notices variations in dress among the various groups. Here goes a young woman dressed head-to-toe in black, wearing sturdy black oxfords, and there goes a gaggle of giggling prayer-bonneted teen-agers in pastel dresses and flip-flops.

Driving through Millersburg years ago, when our older daughter was five, we saw an Old Order Amish woman crossing the street with an identically-dressed toddler in tow. "Look, Mommy," said Margaret, "a baby nun!"

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Our younger daughter is one of those people who can have everyone in stitches just by the way she talks about incidents in her life.

Once, at a party, she told a story that had everyone laughing. Later, an older man sidled up to her and said, self-importantly, "Let me clue you. Men don't like women who are funny."

A bit taken aback, she made no reply. Now she wishes she had cooly retorted,

"Let me clue you. Women don't like blowhards."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

17th Sunday after Pentecost

Next week we'll have the Blessing of the Animals. The priest says that if anyone brings snakes, she'll bless them, but she won't touch them. And they'd better be in cages.

Last week, in keeping with the Season of Creation, we heard Eucharistic Prayer C during the Great Thanksgiving. The husband of the priest we had over 20 years ago called it the "Star Wars" prayer. It's my favorite eucharistic prayer, especially the part about "this fragile earth."

"At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home."

Denise was one of the servers at communion. I remembered getting a wrong number when I tried to call her one time.

"Is Denise there?" I asked.
"No!" barked a very annoyed woman.
I apologized and hung up.
Thinking I had probably made a mistake dialing, I tried again.
The same irate woman picked up the phone. "Yeah?"
" Denise there?"
"Look, Bitch, do I sound like Denise?"
"No. Sorry for bothering you," I replied, timidly.

What I WISH I had said was, "No, you don't sound at all like Denise. Denise is nice."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Off to Peek 'n Peak Tomorrow

Tomorrow I'm driving to Peek 'n Peak, a family resort in southwestern New York state, to attend my niece's wedding. I'm looking forward to a reunion with my four sisters. Three are actually half sisters, but they are all sisters to me.

First stop along the way will be Valencia, PA, to visit BF. She is the sweet woman who boarded a Greyhound near Pittsburgh three times during the past 18 months to come down to stay with Mom while the Tree Hugger and I went away for long weekends. I'm giving her Mom's service-for-six sterling silver.

We won't discuss politics. The last time the TH picked BF up at the bus station (October 2008), he said, "Might as well tell you. We have an Obama sign in our front yard."
"Oh, said she, "he's a Muslim."
"No, he's not."
"Yes,he is."
"So I suppose you're voting for McCain."
"Yes, but I'm not that crazy about him. I really like Sarah Palin though. If Hillary had won the nomination, I would have voted for her."

Since we won't be discussing politics, we won't be discussing health care reform either. BF has private insurance, but she's not happy with it. "They don't pay jackshit," she says.

Then on to Meadville, where I'll visit my 90-year-old Aunt Virginia, who's in the Assisted Living Center at Wesbury United Methodist Community. Aunt Virginia, who's about 90, lived alone until this June, when my cousin, Harry, realized that she was getting forgetful. Pots boiled dry on the stove, bills unpaid, etc. Mom and I used to stay with Aunt Virginia when we came up to Meadville so Mom could visit her friends. I wonder if Aunt Virginia will still recognize me.

Finally Peek 'n Peak. The wedding is Saturday evening. On Sunday, we'll regroup in Erie, PA, at the home of one of the sisters.

On Monday, my sister Barbara and I will visit our mothers' graves at Greendale Cemetery in Meadville. Both our birth mother and my stepmother are buried there. It will be the first time I've seen Mom's grave since her death in December. She's buried beside our dad. Our birth mother, who died ten years ago, is buried beside her second husband.

I'll be home by Monday night. Summer day camp will have ended for our grandson and school won't have started, so he'll be with me all week. Maybe we'll go see the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

She Started It

Our niece and her family were going to Cleveland for a reunion of the Polish relatives on her dad's side. She wrote, "Did you hear the one about the frog who traced his roots to Warsaw? He was a tad Polish."

No way could I just let that go. I e-mailed a reply. "Did you hear the one about the mad scientist who cobbled together a frog-monster out of bat wings, an "eye of newt" and other odds and ends? His name was Dr. Frogenstein."

Almost immediately another pun bubbled up in my sick brain, so I sent a second e-mail: "Did you hear the one about Frogbert McNamara? They made a documentary about him called "The Frog of War."

It's an illness. I'm sorry, but we can't help it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The CuisinART of Shoplifting

A recent letter to the editor of our hometown weekly caught my eye. The writer complained that our local Macy's no longer carried replacement brushes for his Sonicare because they kept getting stolen.

Let me tell you what happened to me. The store was having a sale on food processors, so I bought one. Unwrapped it, set it on the counter, and then noticed that the plastic spatula looked a little worse for wear. Comparing my "new" appliance with the picture on the box, I soon realized a shoplifter had put one over on the store. Some jerk had bought a new food processor, carefully wrapped the old one in the carton, sealed it and returned it to the store for a refund. Clever, but slimy.

Fortunately, I had no problem taking it back. I was so annoyed by the whole thing that I chose a refund rather than an exchange.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tiresome Old Goats

I love the patient, measured way with which Sonia Sotomayor responds to the needling by Hatch, Sessions, and Graham.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sampler Madness

Our niece gave us a framed needlework sampler for our cabin in Ohio. It wasn't exactly a gift, just something she couldn't use and thought we'd like. Wanting to keep the cabin spare and bare, I donated it to a silent auction fundraiser back home in Maryland, estimating its value at $150.00.

A few days before the June 6th auction, I typed "sampler" in my browser window on a whim and was amazed to discover that 19th century samplers were coveted by collectors of antique needlework and fetched prices ranging from $90.00 to $38,000.00. Our sampler was "wrought" in 1836 by Martha Southwick of Dublin, NH, when she was 13 years old. I quickly withdrew our donation from the auction so that we could have it appraised. I sent a few inquiries to online appraisers. This week, I learned from a 1982 New York Times article that our sampler, part of a estate of a serious collector, was valued at $4500.00 over 25 years ago.

"Visions of sugarplums danced in our heads."

Skepticism soon began gnawing away at my euphoria. Yesterday, I typed “Martha Southwick sampler” in my browser window. A picture of “our” sampler came up as an art print or poster available from 35 online dealers. Next, I visited a Southwick genealogy site and found two messages addressed to Martha's descendants, posted in 2001. One was from a woman interested in selling her art print and the other was from a man who had an actual sampler. He thought he might have the original. Silly man.

By now, we had come to the sad realization that we most certainly did NOT have the original either, but I hoped that what we had was at least a reproduction. However, no Martha Southwick sampler showed up on the many websites that sell sampler reproduction kits. Phil was pretty sure that we had an art print. By 9:30 last night, I could stand the suspense no longer. We gingerly peeled back the paper sealing the frame so as not to damage the hoped-for cloth, and found that what we have is--TA-DA-- an art print. It’s a very good print, because it appeared like real cloth and yarn when viewed through the glass.

I think we’ll hang our sampler in the cabin after all.

Friday, June 26, 2009


It's been six months since Mom died. On the way into the shop yesterday to get my hair cut, I passed under an arbor laden with fragrant white roses. I remembered how Mom, suffering from advanced macular degeneration, always reached out to touch the roses, invariably getting scratched or snagging her sweater sleeve.

Although Mom always complained that "those girls don't know how to do my hair," she enjoyed the fuss they made over her. After last Halloween, they passed out surplus Tootsie Pops. "Sam" asked me if Mom would like one. I was about to say, "No," because Mom was getting very persnickety about what she ate.

"Yes, I would!" she said emphatically.

She really enjoyed it, gooey chocolate center and all.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Not a Fun Fish

Our 6-year-old grandson was with me this week in the gap between school and summer camp. It was a week of non-stop chatter.

On Friday, he was telling me about an episode he had seen on ANIMAL PLANET.

"This man was trying to catch an alligator gar. It's a huge, monster fish!"

"Sounds like an alligator gar must be some kind of game fish," I replied, absently.

"Oh, no, Grandma!" he protested, "The alligator gar is NOT a game fish. It's a SERIOUS fish."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Domestic Terrorism

As soon as I heard about the killing of Dr. Tiller, I thought, "Domestic terrorism."

Although I am a card-carrying member of NARAL Pro-Choice America, I always had qualms about late-term abortion. The murder of this man has brought some facts to light about this procedure. Now that I have read stories about what drove women to seek out late-term abortion, I firmly believe that the state has no grounds for interfering in a woman's decision, even in this case. This procedure must remain safe and legal.

I'm ambivalent about abortion. I wish it were never necessary. Like President Clinton, I want it to be "rare and safe," but we live in the real world. It's a necessary safety valve.

I can tell you three stories from my own experience. Both grandmothers and my mother had abortions. My maternal grandmother started married life in Cambridge Springs, PA, which was then a resort town. She and her husband lived with his mother. When grandmother got pregnant, her mother-in-law said, "You'll not have that baby in this house!" I was in my mid-30's when Grandmother told me this story. I pictured Great-Grandmother standing at her front door, sternly pointing out into the stormy night, as the young couple slunk away.

"No, not at all," said Grandmother, "I just went to see this doctor in Cambridge Springs, who performed D&C's all the time." Such things were possible in pre-World War I Cambridge Springs.

My paternal grandmother, Grammy, made no bones about it: "I never wanted children, " she'd say, when she'd had one drink too many. Nevertheless, she bore two sons in her early twenties, 16 months apart. These unplanned pregnancies nearly broke up the marriage. She loved her boys, but she never had any more children. Mother told me disapprovingly that Grammy "got rid of" the others. I'm sure contraceptive devices, such as the diaphragm, were available, if you could somehow get one. The laws of that time made it nearly impossible. The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, spent time in jail for providing women with contraceptives.

During the Depression and leading up the World War II, abortion went underground. My dad, like his mother, did not want children. Mother wanted a large family. Eventually, they had two daughters, and eventually, they divorced. Early in their marriage, my dad convinced my mother to abort her first pregnancy. She said it was a humiliating and horrifying experience, performed in a back-alley room without pain relief of any kind.

I'm still ambivalent about abortion, but not about a woman's right to choose. I grieve for Dr. Tiller and his family and shudder to think of the terror that haunts others who provide this service.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Horse Dollars and Cents

We went to our cabin in Ohio over Memorial Day weekend. At "Miller's Hardware" in Danville, we always pick up a copy of THE VENDOR, a 50-page bi-weekly newsprint magazine that bills itself as "an Advertising Medium Serving the Plain Communities and Others in Ohio and From Coast to Coast." It features columns by "Aunt Molly," essays, poetry, puzzles, recipes, and announcements of birthdays and anniversaries. Each issue includes several pages of jokes, interspersed with folk-wisdom observations, such as, "Conscience keeps more people awake than coffee," or "Worry amplifies a whisper into a shout."

Then there are the ads, which give us city folks a puzzling glimpse into a different world. Here's an ad for the only "Equine Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber" in Ohio. There's an ad addressed to "turkey growers," advising them to place orders now for large broadbreasted white turkey poults. You can get 100 of these critters for $299.95, but at this price, you get only "day-old unsexed" poults.

Setting these mysteries aside, I turn to my favorite section, THE HORSE CORRAL, which is divided into buggy horses, draft horses, ponies, and "standing at stud." One phrase that shows up in almost every buggy-horse ad is "traffic safe and sound." Others are "women can drive" and "good traveler." Asking prices range from $1200 to $3000.

Some ads raise questions:

"Ten-year-old good-sized bay standardbred gelding. Shies a little at big truck's sound. Needs work." At ten years, I guess so.

"Not 100 percent safe, but women can drive."

"Sound, not quite safe, but women can drive."

"Traffic safe and sound, but not for women."

And finally, "Nice headset and fun to drive. Good old bloodlines. He's a cribber."

Sunday, May 31, 2009


I always liked the playfulness of verses 25 and 26 from Psalm 104:

Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. (New Revised Standard Version.)

(The earth is full of thy riches.) So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. (King James Version.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Quacked Up Over an Opera

I thought I heard them say, "The Washington National Opera production of 'Touring Ducks' is coming to the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore."

The name of the opera is actually "Turandot."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fifth Sunday in Easter

1 John 4:7

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

Caught Between Two Mothers

I was 22 years old when Mom adopted me. After my dad was killed in the plane crash, Mom and I talked about adoption, for reasons both practical and sentimental. As Mom's adopted daughter, I would be exempt from inheritance taxes on her estate. But there were reasons of the heart as well. We loved each other; we were family.

Six months after my dad's death, I got married and moved to California. No more was said about adoption until a year later, the autumn of 1963, when Mom suddenly needed surgery. She petitioned the Orphans' Court of Crawford County to adopt me.

Did this sit well with my birth mother? It did not.

My birth mother, who had moved to Florida with my sister when I was six, had returned years before to northwestern Pennsylvania with her husband, my sister and two half-sisters. Her work as a court reporter often took her to the court house in Meadville, where a helpful clerk told her about the petition. Why didn't I tell her myself? I don't know. Perhaps I was afraid to tell her. Perhaps I thought there was plenty of time, because the adoption would not be final until September 1964. Perhaps it was because I was preoccupied with other things. We were expecting our first child in November.

A scathing letter arrived from Mother shortly after she learned about the petition. She was furious. She said that some people would do anything for money. She said that the adoption would make it as if she had never borne me and that my stepmother's name would replace hers on my birth certificate. Furthermore, she would not be the grandmother of our baby and my sister and half-sisters would not be the baby's aunts. It was a "Good-bye, forever" letter. She signed it "Mary."

I was furious in turn. I was ready to reply with a scorching letter of my own. My husband said, "Oh, no, you don't. Don't write while you're this mad. Send a baby announcement. Send a card at Christmas. Keep writing letters the way you always have."

That's what I did. I sent cards and then letters. I addressed them "Dear Mother." I didn't bother to make excuses or explain, because I thought nothing I could say would have made any difference. Besides, she'd already figured out that money was one of the reasons, and she probably didn't want to be reminded of the other.

Eventually Mother let it go. She answered my letters, but at first she signed them "Mary." After awhile, she took to signing them "M." Finally, she reverted to "Mother." No matter what a piece of paper said, we both knew that she was and always would be my mother.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Easter

From 1 John 3: 17-18:

How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Grandma Goes Grey

Actually, I began going grey long before I was a grandmother. It was really annoying, because the best feature of my fine, limp hair was its shine and color. I called it dark brown. My friend insisted it was black. "No, " I said, "I'll tell you who has black hair. It's your sister, Dodie." "That's what I mean, " she replied. "Your hair is black, just like Dodie's." Whatever.

In my thirties, I started using Clairol's shampoo-in haircolor. By my forties, I was having semi-permanent haircolor applied at a salon. By my sixties, I had become so grey I needed a stronger product. The question was: could my baby-fine hair withstand the harsh chemicals? After two or three months and much breakage, I had my answer. My stylist cut it as short as she could for the growing-out phase. As new silver-grey hair came in during the next six or seven months, the remaining color faded from brown to an ugly orange. I was a sight. My sister took one look at me and laughed. "Now you have hair just like Ginger's," she said. Ginger was Barbara's orange-and-white Brittany spaniel.

Meanwhile, at work, our team had enjoyed a small success. We were invited to brief an important agency official on our project, along with teams from eight other offices. I went first. After my 3-minute talk (with slides!) was over, the Big Chief said, "I have to leave the room for a minute. I need everyone to hold their questions until I get back."

When he returned, he forgot all about the questions and went on to the second briefer. Later, I told my team chief that I was a little disappointed about that. "Oh," replied Kurt, "He just wanted to spare your feelings. He knew the question everyone was dying to ask was, 'What the hell have you done with your hair?' "

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Story of My Life as a Failed Multi-tasker

I was so proud of myself yesterday morning.

The Tree Hugger was away, so I filled the feeders for "his" flock of 500-plus wild birds and threw seeds on the ground for the mourning doves, a passel of obnoxious squirrels, and Mr. and Mrs. Mallard. Fed the indoor fish, the pit bull, and the tuxedo cat. Scooped out her two litter boxes (one's on "her" screened porch), made the bed, got breakfast, cleaned up the kitchen, folded two loads of laundry and managed to get into my churchy clothes for a late-morning funeral before our 6-year-old grandson arrived at 7:30 AM. (His school was still on spring break.) Wrote a couple of letters, paid some bills, read a book about bats with the grandson. Just before leaving for the funeral, I brushed my teeth. Then we set out in the pouring rain. Dropped him off at his other grandmother's, drove to church, found a parking space, found my umbrella in the cargo space (a small miracle in itself), nimbly avoided puddles and streams and arrived at our church with ten minutes to spare.

Took off my coat, settled down to listen to the organ prelude, and noticed dried toothpaste all down the front of my dark, silky blouse.

Monday, March 30, 2009

No Mood to Be Scammed, Part 3

Now I will tell you about BJM's revenge. She was the "personal business coach" assigned to me by Online Business Systems. She was so "hurt" by the tone of my e-mail I that she called me the next day to assure me that she would never "scam" anyone. I assured HER that I was not remotely interested in a work-at-home scheme.

Two months later the calls began.

"Hello, this is Joshua Wade of Consolidated Medical Services. I am following up on the interest you expressed a month or two ago in a work-at-home opportunity."

"How did you get my name?"


The next day a message was left on our answering machine. "Hi, this is Mark Anderson of Image Incentives. I'm just gettin' back to you with regards to your request for generating additional income. My number here is 1-866-580-9838." I did not return Mark's call. To his credit, Mark made no attempt to generate additional income for himself by contacting me again.

"Terry" called late the day after that. "You name has come across my desk as someone interested in making money from home. Is that correct?" So crisp and professional, with that "across my desk" business. She sounded like an executive head hunter, as long as you ignored the part about "making money at home."

"How did you get my name?"


In a day or two, I got a call from Mr. Diaz. He didn't hang up when I asked how he got my name, but he didn't really answer the question either.

There was another "across-my-desk" caller who apologized for bothering me and promised to take my name off "the list."

The last call (I can only hope) came just last week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No Mood to Be Scammed, Part 2

Part 2 is about my battle with and its evil sidekick, These guys are as tenacious as fly paper.

I cancelled my memberships in HotMovieSale and SmartSavingsCenter as soon as I found their "welcoming" e-mails on December 20th. The 3-hour gap between receiving the e-mails and finding them apparently opened the Window of Opportunity for SmartSavingsCenter to bill me $9.81 for "Land Before Time," a movie I supposedly ordered.

I called HotMovieSale's customer service line. I got a barely intelligible recording suggesting that I take care of such matters on their website. Clicking on "Contact Us," I informed HotMovieSale that I had cancelled my membership and did not want "Land Before Time." I received generic "blah-blah" replies that assured me that someone would get back to me about my problem. When I received an e-mail in early January informing me that they had just shipped "Land Before Time," I was livid. I fired back angry e-mails and got taunts in return:

"You were the one who allowed an unauthorized person to use your credit card. This is not our fault. The order can't be cancelled, since it has already shipped."

I visited the website again. I lobbed a few taunts at "Kelly," a virtual sales rep who appeared in a pop-up. No matter what I typed, such as "Your so-called 'member services' stink," Kelly remained politely on message: "Can I tell you new ways you can save money on movies?" "NO!," I would thunder back, "I don't want any of your stupid movies!" Kelly: "Let me tell you how you can get five free movies just by recommending a friend."

"Land Before Time" arrived. I sent it back unopened. I know that HotMovieSale received it, because I had "Delivery Confirmation" from the post office. Nevertheless, SmartSavingsCenter, which somehow managed to get this charge transferred to my newly-issued credit card, kept billing me $9.81 for the movie. I would file a complaint with the credit union, which would promptly remove the charge. It would disappear one day, only to reappear the next.

Since I was getting nowhere with HotMovieSale, I called SmartSavingsCenter early one morning. I was pleased to hear, "You are Caller Number One. Your wait time is less than one minute."

Finally, I was getting somewhere! I could hear a phone ringing. Then, instead of a live representative, I heard, "Due to the large volume of calls that we are currently experiencing, we are unable to take your call at this time. Please call back later, or, if you prefer, leave your phone number and we will get back to you later." I knew better than to do that.

Eventually, I reached a person with a semblance of humanity at SmartSavingsCom.

"Ma'am," he kept saying, "I see that you returned the movie to us. We gave you a credit for $9.81 on February 2nd."

"But I'm talking about the new charge of $9.81 that showed up on my bill on February 27."

"Ma'am, my records show that you received a credit for $9.81 on February 2nd. No charges were made after that."

Oh, yeah? I stopped using my credit card entirely after December 20th, except for Netflix. My March statement says that I owe $27.81. Subtract the $18.01 owed Netflix and what is the remainder? You guessed it: $9.81.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

No Mood to Be Scammed, Part 1

If it hadn't begun on the evening of the day Mom died, maybe I wouldn't have been so outraged. Mom died at 2 PM on Saturday, December 20th. Around 6 PM, Phil called me to the phone. A woman was congratulating me on submitting an order for a work-at-home package and advising me to get in touch with my "Personal Business Coach" immediately. I was at a complete loss. "Phil," I said "Come back here and listen to this. What's she talking about?" The woman hung up before he could get to the phone.

Around 7 PM, I received a call from my credit card company's security service, asking if I had charged any of the following to my credit card on December 19 and December 20:

2 charges for Napster, LLC ($ 1.00 each)
SecuredPayment.Com ($ 50.49)
GT Nutrition Pro West ($ 4.95)
SmartSavingsCenter.Com ($ 9.81)
GNS/Slimbody Vitamins ($ 1.00)
EWC Payments Pty Ltd ($ 49.99)

I had not. The security service said that my credit card account would be cancelled and a new account number issued. Fine with me.

Then I checked my e-mail and found the following messages:

1. Welcome to, Dec 20, 6:36 PM,

2. Confirming your order with Online Business Systems, Dec 20, 6:45 PM,

3. From SlimSeduction.Com, Dec 20, 8:14 PM
A Special Congraulations (sic) for Cynthia: You Qualified to Zap Cellulite and Boost Libido, and

4. Welcome to SmartSavingsCenter, Dec 20, 9:17 PM.

The credit card security service people told me that I could get all the unauthorized charges removed from my bill by filing a fraudulant-charges claim with my credit union within 30 days. Just to make sure, I cancelled my "memberships" in HotMovieSales and SmartSavingsCenter on line by 10 PM on December 20th. (SmartSavingsCenter is the billing agent for HotMovieSales.)

BJM, my "Personal Business Coach" from Online Business Systems advised me that the order for my "Work-at-Home Package" was already being processed and would arrive within 2 to 4 business days. I could return it in its "original condition" within 15 days and not be charged the ADDITIONAL $39.95 to cover the "full cost of the material included in your Package." YIPES! This sounded like the opening gambit in an extremely nasty game of "gotcha."

I immediately fired off a reply to BJM:

"I did not submit an order for a work-at-home package. Don't bother shipping it. I have reported this fraudulent attempt to become my "personal business coach" to my credit union's credit card security services division and have cancelled my credit card. I will contact you directly just so that you understand that no contract exists between you and me. You have inconvenienced me at a time when I am in no mood to be scammed."

On the 21st, I got an aggrieved phone call from BJM. She managed to sound both indignant and hurt.

"I just want you to know that I would never scam anyone. I am just so hurt. It was cruel of you to say that."

"Relax," I said, "I'm not coming after you. You caught me at bad time."

We hung up. But is there ever a good time to be the victim of a scam?

In Part 2, I'll tell how "Land Before Time" weasled its way into our house even after I cancelled my so-called membership in Twice.

In Part 3, I'll tell you about BJM's revenge.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

If I Were That Cat . . .

Mom--my stepmother, actually-- always claimed that she preferred animals to people. She never had a baby of her own, so her pets became her babies, the objects of constant anxious coddling.

After Sadie, her sixteen-year-old Persian, was put to sleep in January 2007, Mom declared that she would never have another cat. Who could possibly replace Sadie? After a few weeks, Mom admitted that she was lonely. We interviewed several candidates from local shelters. One gorgeous marmalade tabby ruined his chances by scratching Mom and drawing blood. Another elegant, white, eight-year-old female was declared "a cold fish." Several middle-aged Siamese were "too aggressive." Then Georgie, a pretty tuxedo, was brought to our house for a visit and immediately began exploring Mom's "apartment" as if she already owned it. We signed adoption papers within days and Georgie moved in.

Georgie was a lively 6-year-old, who amused Mom by dashing madly around the bedroom and sitting room at least once a day. She loved to chase the laser light and bat at "da bird" and stalk tiny toy mice. Best of all, she loved to sit on Mom's lap. She cuddled up with Mom for naps and slept in her bed all night.

Mom fussed over Georgie constantly. She followed her around with a plate and a spoon, always afraid that the cat wasn't getting enough to eat. Georgie weighed 10 pounds when she moved in and 14 pounds one year later. Mom monitored her diet constantly. At least once a week, she'd fret that Georgie "wasn't eating," "wasn't herself," "was probably sick, " and "maybe should go to the vet."

One day, while out on an errand, I called home. Mom was frantic. Georgie had escaped the screened porch through a hole in the screen and had been running around the backyard, "scared to death."

Was she still out there?

No, she had come right back in, but Mom was afraid she'd get out again. She wanted Phil to come home immediately and fix that hole!

I called Phil at work. He wasn't about to rush home in the middle of the day.

When he hung up, he muttered crossly to no one in particular, "If I were that cat, I'd run away too!"

A young intern sitting close to the phone nearly choked on her coffee as she stifled a laugh.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Return of the Ghost Coat

Ever since a neighbor's funeral in 2005, the Ghost Coat has haunted our household. Mom wanted to wear her "good, white coat" to that funeral and sent me to get it from her "overflow closet" in our daughter's former bedroom. I brought the coat I thought she wanted.

"This is NOT my good, white coat!" she said, in disgust. "The one I'm talking about is 3/4 length and has big patch pockets." I returned to the closet. There was no white coat matching her description. I searched through the few coats in the tiny coat closet in Mom's "apartment." No coat. "Where COULD it be?" she muttered.

For the next three years, she fretted obsessively about that coat. When Phil suggested, on the day of the funeral, that she might have left it somewhere by mistake, she treated his suggestion as a cover-up. Obviously, he was trying to turn the spotlight of suspicion away from me. I must have given her coat away to the church rummage sale. When I assured her that I had not, she would reply, "Well, then, WHERE is it?" I hadn't a clue, so therefore I must have given it away.

"Mom, I don't even remember this coat," I said.

"You ask the girls," she said. "They appreciate nice things. They'll know what coat I'm talking about." I asked our daughters. They hadn't a clue either.

She kept obsessing about it. Two years ago, on the way home from a disappointing visit to the dermatologoist--he refused to remove some non-cancerous growths on her neck because of her age--she announced, "Well, there's one thing we have to settle once and for all!"

"What's that?"

"I need to know what you did with my good, white coat."

"Mom," I said, wearily, "I didn't do anything with your coat. I don't even remember this coat. I would never give away any of your things to a rummage sale. What more can I say?"

A long discussion ensued.

Finally, she sighed, "Well, if you didn't take it, who did? Someone must have come into my room and taken that coat out of my closet."

"I don't think anyone took your coat. I have no idea what happened to it. It's a mystery."

She considered this for a minute. Then she said, "Well, I guess you didn't take it after all. I've prayed a lot about this. I asked God to forgive you, because if you took that coat, it would have been a black mark against you in his book. It's a mystery, all right, but I still wish I knew what happened to it."

That was the last I heard about the white coat.

Last week, a call from Purple Heart spurred me into action. A donation truck was coming to our neighborhood. I spent last Saturday cleaning out Mom's closets, washing and sorting clothes to be given away.

In Mom's tiny coat closet, I found several coats, including a coat I had never seen before. White wool, black buttons, 3/4 length, big patch pockets. Here, at last, was the "good, white coat." Who knows how and when it ended up there? Heaven knows I looked through that closet dozens of times, searching for that coat.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Raccoon Dinner on Groundhog Day

A postcard summoning us to the Danville, Ohio Lions' Club's 65th Annual Raccoon Dinner arrived several weeks ago. Phil and I dutifully loaded the pit bull and the mini-shepherd into the car and headed for our cabin in Knox County. This festive community fundraiser happened to fall on February 2nd this year. Phil's sister, Cathy, arrived from Marietta on Monday afternoon. She and I donned our new raccoon socks and headed for Danville. Phil followed, stopping on the way to pick up our good friend and neighbor, David.

Hundreds of people crowded into Saint Luke's Community Center for the dinner. The rafters were hung with icicle lights. Tickets for several fifty-fifty drawings were raffled off, and also a hunting rifle. Cathy won $111.00 at the the fifty-fifty drawn at 6 PM. None of us held the winning ticket for the hunting rifle, which was just as well, since at least three of us are probably too old at this point to learn to shoot straight. People come from miles around for this event. I don't think Joe the Plumber showed up, but the diner who traveled the greatest distance came from Sydney, Australia.

Here's what we had for dinner: baked raccoon, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, rolls, and homemade cake. YUM! Although raccoon does not taste like chicken, it's not that bad. Kind of reminds me of beef. The raccoons are trapped during raccoon season. They are frozen until the weekend before the dinner, when about 25 volunteers turn on their ovens. They dust the cut-up raccons with flour and brown them in Crisco before baking them to fork-tenderness.

Cathy had some homework to do before a meeting of the Muskingum Valley Presbytery in New Philadelphia, OH, the next day, so we two did not stay for the after-dinner program. After the crowd was serenaded by Danville High School's own "Devil Land Jazz Band", they enjoyed a talk by Bill Hosket, who was an All American at Ohio State University and a member of the U.S. basketball team that won a gold medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

He Knows How I Am!

It's been nearly a month since Mom died. She was buried on December 26th in Meadville, PA. None of us was there. Winter can be so nasty in northwestern Pennsylvania that we didn't want our daughters, their husbands and our grandsons to chance the 7-hour drive. I suggested that we all go up this spring. So no one was there the day after Christmas except Mom's friend, Dale. He used to do her yard work, take her shopping, do minor repairs around the house. He is profoundly deaf, but he and Mom became the best of friends. She was like a second mother to him. So it was Dale who met the hearse at the cemetery, said a prayer, placed three yellow roses on her coffin, and watched the burial. I'm so glad that someone dear to her was there on that bleak morning.

Last Sunday we had an informal memorial gathering at our house for the immediate family and a few friends. All our Christmas decorations were still up because I've just been so tired.

Today, when I took the tree down, I chuckled at the memory of Mom and Dale's disagreement over Christmas lights many years ago. Mom always decorated her front "stoop" with lights. One year she decided three strings would look better than two, so she wanted Dale to join three strings together end to end. Having read the warning on the box, Dale informed her that two strings was the limit.

"Nonsense, " said Mom, "I never had any problem before. I've always put three or four strings together." Nothing Dale could say would change her mind. Three strings it was.

Before long, one string burned out.
Dale went downtown for a replacement.
Another string burned out.
Dale went downtown again.
And again.
Eventually Mom had to admit that Dale had been right all along. She gave up on the third string.

Later she said to me, "He should have INSISTED that I use just two strings. He knows how I am!"